Tag Archives: beauty
I visit coffee shops quite frequently to write. Sometimes, as I break away from my zone, I observe the people and conversations around me. As I scan the room, I see friends catching up and work meetings underway. I find some people sipping their coffee, contently in solitude while others are waiting for their other party to arrive. Among the various people, it becomes easy to spot those that are with a loved one- the couples. They distinguish themselves from the rest with only a light in their eyes, an airiness in the way they carry themselves, and a discernible love for life in their demeanor.
Next Sunday is Valentine’s Day, and as boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands, and wives prepare to spoil their loved ones and show them their appreciation, I thought we would take some time to reflect on how we can share in each other’s love, not just on Valentine’s Day, but on any day of the year. Last week, we discovered the importance of discovering what brings us joy. As we grow secure in seeking out opportunities that reveal our joy, we should become inspired to assure the joy of others. When our revealed joy transpires to bringing joy to others, that might change the way that we share our lives with those around us. So, as we come upon the holiday of love, how do we share in love no matter what our relationship status may be? How does our love for the lives we live become so distinguishable, so evident among all the rest? How do we use our love of life, our joy in finding what brings us pleasure, in order to help others in the pursuit of what brings them joy? Two days ago, Coldplay performed in the Super Bowl 50 halftime show. In the opening of their performance, Coldplay’s Chris Martin spoke to millions of viewers, saying “… Wherever you are, we’re in this together.” Joined by Beyoncé and Bruno Mars in the finale, the three sang the band’s Up&Up lyrics, “We’re going to get it, get it together right now. // Going to get it, get it together somehow. // Going to get it, get it together and flower. // We’re going to get it, get it together I know. // Going to get it, get it together and flow. // Going to get it, get it together and go.”
We may not be world-famous singers, we may not be in a position to display our influence in front of millions of viewers around the world, but we all possess a light and a joy. In a relationship or not, performing in front of millions or not, we have that light in our eyes and that joy in our hearts. While we may not be able to share our joy with the whole world, we can certainly share our joy with those around us, and that is enough to influence the world. As we begin to discover and grow in our own joy, we will become more confident in extending that joy to others. Once we realize the power in the presence of shared joy and of spreading our own love to influence those around us, we may witness world-change. In exploring the influence of our love and joy, we may pursue relationships, experiences, or opportunities that allow us to expand our joy to the rest of the world in order to serve the joy of others. We may, then, start by being more intentional about the people in our own lives. How are we serving them so that their joy is evident? How are we loving them so that the light in their eyes has an evident twinkle? How are we supporting them and enabling them to be all that they can be and to love the lives that they have been given? Let us not stop short of investing in the joy of others. While we work to discover and secure the things in life that bring us joy, let us go farther and push past boundaries in order to discover and secure the joy of others. This may begin to change the way we think and act, so that the decisions we make do not just affect our own lives, but they influence the betterment of another person. We may, then, become intentional and sensitive in the way that we act. We may begin to create a habit that focuses on the joy of others, instead of just the joy of ourselves. We may even find joy in a painful situation, realizing that our own circumstances have the power to harbor an influence or affect on someone else’s life. Finding joy for ourselves, then, becomes more than just a quest for our own betterment, but it becomes meaningful in influencing positive change in the lives of others.
When we truly believe that we are all in this beautifully complicated life together, despite differences of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, socio-economic status, opinion, thought, or belief, we will discover our powerful capability to influence the lives of others. We will, then, realize our potential in discovering and assuring joy, and seeing how that joy can spread throughout the world. We may also begin to assure our own joy and the love we share for those around us despite our circumstances, whether we are in a relationship or not, whether we acquire fame or not, whether we find the perfect job or not. For, we may begin to believe that our own joy and our own love do not only illuminate the light in our own eyes, but they allow light to break through the darkest corners of the earth.
“Always find time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive,”- Author unknown.
Happiness can be somewhat of a taboo subject. We are told to put others’ happiness before our own. We are told that happiness is fleeting, that we should not pursue it. Nathaniel Hawthorne once said that “Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.” But, what if we pursue what brings us joy? What if, by learning to love the lives we live, we seek out those times and events where we take pleasure in the beauty of our lives? What if we intentionally choose the things that make us feel happy to be alive?
As we learn to love the lives we live, as we experience love in living a joyful and abundant life, we should carve out time where we enjoy the pleasures of life. For me, this time comes easiest when I am on a hike. I love to explore, I feel invigorated and energized when I reach a hike’s peak, and I love to connect with nature around me. I am completely pleased when I go on a hike. However, when the business of life picks up, when I get lost in duties, responsibilities, errands, and chores, going on a hike falls lower and lower on my list of priorities. Soon, I find myself meandering mindlessly through the monotony of my life. I find myself wondering why I feel drained, emotionless, lifeless. Then, it is only when I find myself in the monotony of life, in the endless cycle of waking up, going to work, coming home, going to sleep only to wake up and repeat the cycle all over again, that I wonder where my fire has gone. If the pursuit of happiness, as evidenced even in the Declaration of Independence, is so crucial to the wellness of life, then why can it be so hard to find?
You see, somewhere along the way, we convince ourselves that our happiness is expendable. In the business of life, in the midst of managing responsibilities, schedules, and priorities, we forget to manage time to enjoy our lives. If we are to truly love our lives, if we are to love all the processes, experiences, and events that amount to making each of our lives so unique and influential, then we must begin to forge opportunities for us to take pleasure in our lives. For some of us, this may mean actually scheduling time for ourselves where we can enjoy a long hike, learn a new language, read that book that has been sitting on a lone shelf for months, take a cooking, painting, or photography class, or visit a museum. When we begin to carve out time for even the little things that bring us pleasure, we may find ourselves venturing to that one, almost unobtainable, place that has always been on our bucket list. For, when we create a habit of prioritizing the act of seeking happiness in the crevices of our daily lives, we will allow happiness to flourish in the dreams we never thought we would achieve.
However, while it is important to seek happiness, it is equally important to give happiness its proper weight in our lives. Denying ourselves the time space to enjoy the things that fill our hearts and please our souls can create a detachment in our lives. But, allotting happiness too much weight in our lives can deter or distract us from the significance and importance of our lives. We must, then, carefully consider the effect of our own happiness and we must trust our instinct to reward it a proper role in our lives. Then, when we seek happiness in the appropriate way, we will allow joy to root itself in our hearts and we will notice the effects of that joy in our lives. When we allow happiness a foothold in our lives, we may notice a difference in the way that we love the lives we live and even the courses that our lives are taking us. Once we see the way that joy affects us, we will trust its inherent value and we will begin to believe that we are worthy of its value in our own lives.
So, take time to enjoy your life this week. How will you find joy and where will you allow happiness to take root in your life?
One of my favorite books is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. In this semi-autobiographical tale, Liz takes her readers on a journey of self-discovery. Throughout her own account of finding happiness and love, Liz ventures to three different countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia. While in Italy, she practices the enjoyment of life’s pleasures- eating, learning, enjoying the culture, and forming deep friendships. By sharp contrast, she visits India to practice devotion. Here, she devotes her intellectual and emotional energy to the practice of meditation and of strengthening her faith. This portion of the book is the most convicting. Through the struggle, trial, and hardship of refining and growing in her practice, she pushes past emotional barriers and exposes a new layer of her understanding of the world and of the longings of her heart. After experiencing the dichotomy of these two worlds, namely enjoying the pleasures of life and finding meaning in life, she travels to Bali to grow in the balance of the two. Throughout her year of travel, Liz embarks on finding the essence of life, the meaning in the every day. More than that, on her journey of self-discovery, Liz finds the love of her life in the process of learning to love life itself. Though, this love of her life may not pertain to any man, any single event, or invigorating experience but, rather, the love of her life is the actual process of loving life.
February is acclaimed as the month of love. Situated just after the beginning of a new year, February exudes the essence of love. So, while love is in the air, we should explore a love that breathes life into our every-day, we should discover the love of life. This month, we will apply Liz’s experiences in Italy, India, and Indonesia in our own personal adventure in uncovering what ignites our love of life. We will reflect on what brings us pleasure, where we find ourselves connected to our love for life, where we enjoy the company of family, friends, and loved ones, and where we feel invigorated and grateful to be alive. Then, we will explore where we find meaning in life- in what circumstances that we challenge the truth of our convictions, in what events that we hold fast to those convictions, and in which areas we may need to foster a space for our dreams to come alive. Finally, we will weigh the ways that we will be able to balance enjoying the pleasures of life and finding meaning in life. In finding a balance that is so unique to each of our individual and vastly different, but wholly beautiful, walks of life, we may find that we have come to love life. We may come to realize that life does not amount to a single event, goal accomplished, dream achieved, desire obtained, award received, recognition gained, or love found. Rather, we may come to grasp that life is comprised of every moment, good or bad, joyful or painful, encouraging or disheartening, that amounts to this unique, beautiful, and valuable life that is given to each of us.
My hope for this month is for each of us to embrace the love that is so evident in our lives- the love found in the process of living, itself. I wish for us to allow ourselves to enjoy the things that bring us pleasure, while probing at ourselves to constantly unearth new meaning and define our unfaltering purpose. I desire that we will explore all the ways in which we love well, live well, and love the way that we live.
Maya Angelou said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” In the early days of elementary school, I was taught of the metamorphosis of a butterfly. I distinctly remember growing caterpillars and harvesting their cocoons in a tree nearby my childhood classroom. The week that we learned about the process in which a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly is still so evident in my mind. Every day, I would await the next school day, looking forward and counting down the days until the cocoons hatched and the butterflies emerged. Still, in literature and film, the metamorphosis of a butterfly is used to symbolize a spiritual or physical period of growth in which we expect a certain personal transformation. But, in these periods of growth, in our own personal metamorphosis, we often focus on the result of becoming a radiant butterfly, tending to overlook the changes we undergo that shape the intrinsic beauty of our wings.
In making our new year’s resolutions, by which we may or may not have stuck to, we looked forward to the possibility of a new year. We thought of everything we wanted to achieve and of all the possibilities we thought we could be. We thought of all we had yet to do, those items on our bucket list left unchecked, all the places we have yet to see, and all our dreams we have yet to reach. We formed resolutions and goals, in part, based off what we have not yet accomplished. Alternatively, we formed resolutions based off all that we dreamt of achieving. As the excitement of a new year swiftly approached us, we were thinking of the result even long before the beginning of the year was upon us. We were thinking of the beautiful butterflies we would become before even making our cocoons. We were waiting to show off our beautiful wings and to explore the height that those wings would take us even while we were still caterpillars. While we have such adventure to look forward to in this next year, we must remember the inspiration in the every day. It is more than okay to be excited about the result, about the possibilities, and about the promise held within a new year, but it is important not to let our excitement about the result hamper our acceptance of present circumstances. We must be mindful in our present happenings so that we are able to be joyful in all circumstances.
At times, we may find it difficult to be joyful in the midst of the calamity and the change. No doubt, we will face challenges, disappointment, discouragement, and failure, but we must acknowledge that those moments, even in their ugliness, play an important role in shaping our beauty. It is through those ugly, unpredictable moments, those times we wish not to remember and try vigorously to erase, that our beauty is more distinguished. It is for the beauty of becoming, that we must rejoice in the present. We must then find inspiration in the process of developing our wings. We must discover those sources of inspiration, seek out the people that encourage us and lift us up, visit those places that enlighten the truth and peace in our hearts, and invest in those moments that invigorate and revive us. For, it is in the midst of those moments that inspire us that those moments that have discouraged, disheartened, or challenged us become all the more worthwhile. When we focus on the present moments and how they are shaping and developing the wings by which we will soar, we will learn to value and rejoice in any moment, good or bad, invigorating or heartbreaking. We will come to value all these moments as the result of the intricacies that make our wings so distinct and unique for the purpose of our flight. We will come to love each moment and experience as they, without a doubt, aid our flight and amount to the joy in reaching our destination. But even more than that, we will come to love each moment and experience as they add inherent worth to our journey of becoming the people we are meant to be.
Throughout the course of this month, we have discovered how reflection, rest, rediscovery, and revival will influence all the promise of this year. By remembering how years past have shaped us, by resting in what the present has to offer us, by learning to dream again, and by inspiring ourselves to courageously go forth in the direction of our dreams, we will learn to love not only the people we are becoming, but the process that we use in order to get there. We will then find beauty not only in the result of becoming all we have imagined to be and achieving that which is beyond our wildest dreams, but also in the process of becoming and achieving everything of our hearts desire. Let us now allow 2016 to become a collectivity of the moments in which we find inherent worth and dignity, that allow the beauty and intricacy of our wings to shine brighter than they ever could. With those wings, which we have grown and developed, let us soar to new heights and uncover unmapped destinations, so that we may be able to offer every unique part of ourselves in order to make our mark on this vastly beautiful world. As we continue into 2016, let us bravely spread our wings and soar.
In the movie Invictus, the highly acclaimed New Zealand All Blacks rugby team performed the haka before facing off against the South African Springboks. South Africa’s team, uniting under the leadership of Nelson Mandela in his first term as president, symbolized the unity of a nation battling the systematic regime and institutional oppression of an apartheid era. The Springboks came to defeat the All Blacks in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, cementing the team’s fight as one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Before the match, the film portrays a cultural warrior dance from the All Blacks. The haka, as performed by the rugby team, “is a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. Haka are a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity … Today, haka are still used during Māori ceremonies and celebrations to honour guests and show the importance of the occasion. They are also used to challenge opponents on the sports field.” Gaining recent widespread media attention, the haka was seen as a beautiful depiction of love, support, and loyalty when groomsmen, bridesmaids, and other family members and loved ones dedicated the symbolic dance to a couple on their wedding day. With these various illustrations of the haka in film and in the media, the war dance has become known as a custom of revival, preparing its members for anything from battle, to coming together in peace, to displaying a spirit of unity, strength, and pride.
Though many of us may not perform a haka routine in the early moments of our mornings, as we prepare to take on the day, the illustration of the haka and its meaning is something that we can learn from. Throughout this month, we have been preparing our hearts for taking on this new year with courage, dignity, strength, bravery, and intention. We have learned to reflect on past years, as they have molded us into the people we are today. We have learned to find periods of rest, in creating habitual patterns of rest and reflection so that we can strengthen our minds, form courageous intentions, and prepare for present moments of opportunity. Just last week, we learned to allot space for our imaginations to roam free and for our dreams to trespass any barriers we have set or seen set before them. We learned to trust our strength, to grow our courage, and to invest in our imaginations, as they give forth to the fruition of our wildest dreams. This week, then, as we conclude this series, we will see the growth in our reflection, rest, and rediscovery unite in our revival.
Creating spaces every day where we revive our spirits, stimulate our minds, and inspire habitual dreaming, is essential in order to see the fruits of our efforts, ambitions, and adventures in this year ahead. Experiencing revival may look different for each of us. In fact, here are many ways to practice the intention of reviving our minds, spirits, and dreams. One way is by journaling. Taking time to set intentions for the day, week, or month will enable you to remember those intentions throughout the day and will encourage you to work towards achieving them. You may notice opportunities that you would not have noticed otherwise, or you may seek out people or make plans that will further your ambitions. Another way to revive your spirit and to stimulate the reimagination of your dreams is by surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you to relentlessly pursue your dreams and who will encourage, strengthen, and inspire you to become the best version of yourself in order to fortify the reality of your dreams. The people you surround yourself, then, become an inviolable force in the pursuit of your dreams and in taking on every triumph, trial, and adventure that this new year has to offer you. Still, another way to revive your inspiration and intent for this new year is to strive to become the very inspiration that you are seeking. If you are looking for inspiration in changing your community, you may look for ways to offer your talents, expertise, and passions to the development of your community. If you aspire to grow in your career, you may open your eyes to new opportunities, reinforce your spirit in acting outside of your comfort zone, and define your resilience and persistence in facing fear and overcoming defeat. If you desire a change of course, a difference of behavior or habit, or deeper personal growth, you may instigate small but defining changes in your courses of action. You may challenge yourself to adhere to the promises you have made to yourself, accepting moments of failure, but pressing on in the face of defeat. You may learn to trust yourself and to find confidence in your strength, allowing yourself to achieve what you might have otherwise thought was impossible to achieve. In any way that you decide to revive your spirit, the action starts with you. You must make take the first step in relentlessly and fearlessly pursuing your dreams and obtaining your ambitions for this next year.
In finding the inspiration to chase after your dreams and obtain your ambitions, be inspired by yourself. Let this next year tell a story of unexpected adventure and success. Rather than giving up at the first sign of defeat, accept the imperfection of your journey and encourage yourself to continue on the road of achieving your goals, of reimagining your dreams, and of refining your purpose. Believe in yourself, give your story leeway to ebb and flow to unexpected and unforeseen circumstances, and, always, go boldly in the direction of your heart by the light of your dreams.
“Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total- all of these acts- will be written in the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a [wo]man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [s]he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert F. Kennedy
One of my most memorable moments while studying abroad in South Africa was standing atop of Elsie’s Peak in Fish Hoek, a city just south of central Cape Town. Two of my roommates and I had taken the train down to its end in Simon’s Town where we hiked around, explored some more, stayed in a hostel, and then traveled back north to our home. On our way back, we stopped in Fish Hoek, which after having had read about, we wanted to wander about. We looked up some suggested hikes, found Elsie’s Peak, grabbed our backpacks holding all our essentials for the weekend, and ventured up the peak without a map in hand or any idea of where this trail would lead us. To our surprise, it lead us amid the most beautiful scenery- my roommate Matt even found a rock that resembled Pride Rock from the Lion King, upon which he cradled his backpack in the same way that Mufasa cradled baby Simba. We continued through untouched greenery, majestic rocks, exotic flowers, and eventually found ourselves atop of the mountain. We continued to what we could see was the mountain’s edge to behold a perfect panorama of the Western Cape and the sprawling bay, spilling out into the vast ocean that seemed to go on for an infinity’s end. We were amazed and struck with wonder as we beheld the most beautiful and peaceful picture of nature that we had seen before. My heart was full as I was captivated in a moment’s time with the beauty of the world before me. To this day, that moment stands in time as the single moment that took my breath away and allowed my dreams to roam free. That is when my mind and soul felt the most free they had ever been to dream, to wander, and travel beyond my vision of the ocean’s end.
Throughout this series in which we prepare our hearts and minds to grasp the vast opportunity that this new year awaits to give us, we have explored what it means to reflect on what these past years have taught us and to rest in what the present moments have to offer us. This week, we are venturing in what it means to dream again, to envision what we can offer this world, and to rediscover our purpose, influence, and inspiration. By reflecting on how we have grown and what we have learned through past experiences, struggles, lessons, triumphs, and rewards, we will be enlightened to discover our passions and rediscover the deepest desires and dreams of our hearts. Similarly, by resting in what these present moments have to offer us, and what they are preparing for us, we will be empowered to use our strength, talents, passions, and beliefs to pursue our dreams beyond what we could imagine of their fullest potential.
When we realize the inherent value of our worth and the undeniable power in who we have come to be, we will believe that we are not only able to pursue our dreams, but to see those dreams become reality. In that moment that we enable ourselves to rediscover our dreams, we will be able to envision things for not only our own futures, but for the future of the world- dreams untouched by any precedent before us, and dreams so unique to our own character that we become the distinct driving force behind them. Once we believe in this power of ours, we will begin to take the steps to assure that we are constantly re-envisioning and rediscovering dreams for ourselves and for the vast world beyond us. For me, that experience on that mountaintop stands as the pillar of my imagination and of the basin that holds my wildest dreams and my purest hopes for the world. But, I am not limited to flying halfway across the world just to experience that mountaintop revelation. Rather, I am able to access that same emotion, that same moment that took my breath away, and that same powerful essence that freed my heart and mind to travel to the ocean’s end at any moment of any day. I can access that revelation that freed my dreams beyond the confines of my own doubt because I had experienced it before. The same goes for any of us. The truth is, each of us have had empowering and captivating moments, and because we have once experienced them before, we can draw up those invigorating experiences, that breath of life, that unparalleled inspiration in order to activate ordinary moments of inspiration. There are moments awaiting us each day with which we can become inspired and empowered to live out our dreams and our purpose. We must only be aware and open to looking for them in rather unexpected places. We must be intentional in alloting ourselves time to daily rediscover our dreams and remember our purpose and influence. For some of us, that may be surrounding ourselves with friends that share our ideals, our dreams, and empower us to affect change throughout the world. For others of us, that may be finding time in solitude, amid the world’s rawest and most beautiful natural wonders. Still, for some of us, that may be embarking on adventures, placing ourselves in unfamiliar territories, in unchartered waters, and resting upon the faith of our strength.
Every day, we have moments to re-envision our purpose and influence and to rediscover our dreams. We must only allow those moments to be revealed, actively seek out those moments, and remind ourselves of prior experiences in which we have stood in awe to the freeing of our own imagination. In this next year, it is my hope that these moments are not just found in single life-changing experiences, but in the ordinary, almost mundane instances of our every-day lives. I hope that this rediscovery, this breath of invigorating life, becomes our normal, our habit. As we stand at the threshold of this new year, I hope we learn to rediscover our dreams throughout our weekly dispositions, our morning routines, our workday grind, and our nighttime slumbers, when we free our imaginations to dream all over again.